Sunday, October 14, 2007

Steamed: the sequel

So I wrote an email to Stephan Papa, who has been organizing and promoting Association Sunday (hereafter known as AS, not those other words) to ask why the UUA decided to have AS on Solidarity Sunday. Now, I've known Stephan for many years. He was the minister of First Universalist Church in Denver for almost 20 years and always had an encouraging word for us UU students at Iliff School of Theology, just down the street from First Univ. So I was pretty sure he wasn't going to give me the runaround, in answering my question.

I got a very prompt reply from him, apologizing for the oversight, acknowledging the need to get further input while giving the reasons and process involved in setting this year's date. In addition, he asked for my thoughts about next year's date. I had cced the note I'd sent him and Bill to my friend Keith Kron at the OBGLTC, and Stephan replied to all, so that Keith was able to respond as well, which he did.

I didn't ask permission of either Stephan or Keith to quote them, so I won't, but I was pleased with the non-defensive tone of Stephan's response and with the exchange generally. I have the sense, if not the guarantee, that next year this imposition will not occur or, if it does, the conflicting dates will be acknowledged and alternatives promoted in a thoughtful way.

The whole exchange was made even more satisfactory by the measured tones of the conflict. There were differing points of view, an opportunity for hurt feelings on both sides, an opportunity for defensive, angry accusations back and forth, and these elements did not surface at all. If they existed in anyone's mind, that person bit back angry words and took the high road.

I've been accused, over the time I've been blogging as Ms.Kitty, of coming on as Wisewoman and offering my opinions about proper blogging behavior in places where they're not welcome. I'm probably guilty as charged, but guilty of what?

Guilty of preferring a civil tone in our debates? Isn't that what we hope for in the civic and religious sphere, rather than charges and countercharges between human beings?

Guilty of preferring direct communication rather than snide remarks and sarcasm which seek to hurt, rather than to find common ground? In what universe is it okay to insult people who disagree with you?

Guilty of preferring non-defensive responses to critique, rather than rants about how terrible the critiquer is to disagree with the critiqued?

I'm not a particularly wise Wisewoman. I goof up all the time. But I have enough life experience and common sense to know that civil discourse with our dissenters is far more effective than sarcastic accusations and defensive reactions. That simply is not how the world works; diplomacy and a willingness to listen are essential behaviors in a world that is already too full of rage.

I'm likely to be accused of being uncivil, snide, and defensive in this post. I've tried very hard to remove accusatory language and to focus on my own understanding of the universe. My efforts won't satisfy everyone. But when I realized that my own joy in writing Ms. Kitty's had taken a serious hit because of the email sent by another, I needed to act to regain that joy.

I'm no Martin Luther, but here I stand.

11 comments:

Robin Edgar said...

"In what universe is it okay to insult people who disagree with you?"

I'm not sure but I do know that it is perfectly okay to insult people you disagree with in the U*U World. In fact when U*U clergy insult and defame people it is condoned by the UUA, its department of congregational serrvices and the Ministerial Felllowship Committee. Indeed it is a well documented fact that the Ministerial Fellowship Committee considers it to be "within the appropriate guidelines of ministerial leadership" for a U*U minister to not only insult a church member but to make "injurious and untrue" defamatory allegations about them. . .

Ms. Theologian said...

That worked out rather well.

I am worried about the tone of discussion in the UU blogosphere (or perhaps the greater blogosphere). I think perhaps that's one of the larger issues for me.

Jess said...

Discussion? What's that? ;-)

(My way of saying that I'm totally on that page with you.)

uuMomma said...

Sounds pretty wise to me ...

Chalicechick said...

If we're thinking of the same incident, I think the person who was upset with you was upset because that person felt attacked from all sides, and indeed had gotten a great deal of criticism. While I would rather that person not react that way, I think the response came from upset, not a belief that manners were unimportant. Fundamental attribution error.

I find the tone of discussion in the UU blogosphere just fine 95 percent of the time and think that's pretty good as the human race goes, to say nothing of the internet. IMHO, if you want to see real incivility and unreasonableness, check out the comments on your average Youube video.

But,then, my standards for reasoned discourse might well be warped...

CC

ms. kitty said...

Good point, CC, though the reaction is so predictable that it becomes a question of "what's going on with this person that causes such a defensive reaction when criticized?"

And I agree, the tone of discussion among UUs, at least in the blogs I read, is generally good, with the occasional clear exception.

Chalicechick said...

I think timing was part of the issue. The controversy in question had been going on for several days. I don't think that person intended to start it, but did stick to the original post. I think I remember that you had been on a trip and missed that it had become a really big issue.

Also, my memory is that you had not read the person's initial post, you had read my criticism of the person's initial post, which was, I believe the fourth post I had made on the issue, and you based your criticism on my criticism. That is generally considered bad form in blogging, for a reason that was demonstrated when you made an assumption about the people in the debate that turned out to be inaccurate. (My assuming that somebody reading would also have read my previous posts, leading to my not providing a link was also bad form, FWIW.)

I think the person's reaction was far from ideal, and indeed, I did suffer some of it myself. I am not given to reacting that way and hope I never become so. But circumstances did a lot to create that reaction.

CC

ms. kitty said...

Nope, we're on a different page. That one was way last spring. This one was recent.

Robin Edgar said...

Yes it is quite obvious that you are talking about a recent matter. Why not just cut to the chase and deal with it head on instead of talking around it as U*Us are so wont to do? Why is it that U*Us are so prone to talking about people obliquely instead of just naimg the person, namimg the problem and dealing with it directly and forthrightly? This habit of U*Us is very akin to talikng about someone behind their back only you do it in public. . .

Robin Edgar said...

Is it possible to be a keyboard dyslexic? I am beginning to wander. . . ;-)

Chalicechick said...

Oh. OK.

My bad.

CC